In our series of letters from African writers, media consultant and trainer Joseph Warungu writes about plans to build a huge museum in Ghana that reflects the history and heritage of Africans.
Another migration of Africans is about to happen.
The Maasai of Kenya and Tanzania, the Himba of Namibia, the Somalis of the Horn of Africa, the Zulus of southern Africa and the Mbenga of the Western Congo Basin — among many other communities — could soon move to new homes in Ghana.
The major mass migration within Africa began more than 4,000 years ago, when huge populations of Bantu speakers left their native habitats in southern West Africa to settle in other parts of the continent.
The new migrants will travel in the opposite direction.
Like their predecessors, they do not require visas or travel documents.
Their move is not physical, but cultural and spiritual. It is their history, their philosophy, their faith and their story that is about to find a new home.
The new home is located on Pomadze Hills in Winneba. The 10-hectare site in the central region of Ghana is located about 60 km west of the capital Accra.
It is a site to see, with sloping terrain, covered in greenery.
If all goes according to plan, the site will be home to an impressive six-storey building in August next year: the Pan African Heritage Museum.
The Winneba site, through which the “migrants” will enter their new home in Ghana, is just over an hour’s drive from the Door of No Return at Cape Coast Castle, from which millions of Africans were forced to leave the continent and into slavery. To hit .
The museum, which is under construction, has one main goal: to compose and tell the story of Africa using African voices, tools and culture.
The big heads behind the project say this is necessary because the African story has been told by others for a long time.
They claim that when someone else tells your story, they tell it from their perspective so they look good.
The museum therefore wants to take ownership of the African story by bridging what the founders say is a gap that has been widening among people of African descent for more than 400 years.
It is a museum that aims to educate, heal and inspire.
Ghana’s President Nana Akufo-Addo says the museum will “provide a natural abode and resting place for all of our continent’s looted cultural artifacts, which have been housed in foreign museums and will be returned to us”.
This is the newest museum to be built on the continent, following in the footsteps of those in Senegal† Democratic Republic of Congo and Nigeriaand comes at a time when there is growing acceptance in Europe that the goods seized during the colonial era should be returned from Africa.
Judging by the digital version launched recently, the museum will be a stunning structure that will stand tall and be visible from afar – a monument to Pan-Africanism.
As a passionate pan-African, I went on a tour of the virtual museum.
As you enter, your eyes are treated to beautiful contemporary works of art by great artists of African descent.
Soothing saxophone sounds, accompanied by soft piano tones, put you at ease.
As if at the right time, I am immediately captivated by this beautiful painting by the Nigerian artist Doba Afolabi.
The work, entitled Nite Voltron, depicts a passionate musician joyfully emptying the contents of his lungs into his saxophone.
A few virtual steps further and I’m staring at Tangled Trickster – an intriguing work by American visual artist Aisha Tandiwe Bell, who is known for using mixed media to create myth and ritual.
According to her, the woman portrayed as an impostor “sums up our modern fragmented, broken-down identities and multiple consciousnesses”.
The idea of addressing our collective African identity and history by harnessing, celebrating and managing African culture in a unique Pan-African museum was born in 1994.
The man behind it is Kojo Acquah Yankah, a former editor of Ghana’s Daily Graphic newspaper and who previously served as an MP and minister in the government of the late President Jerry Rawlings.
He tells me he was inspired by attending the 375th anniversary of the forced arrival of the first 20 Africans on the coast of Jamestown, Virginia, in the US – the birthplace of American slavery.
“The event was attended by more than 5,000 people of African descent from around the world, who celebrated their historic memoir,” said Mr. Yankah.
“This inspired me to establish the Pan African Heritage Museum to unite Africans and people of African descent and boost Africans’ self-confidence as a people with a rich history and heritage.”
But why this museum when there are many more in Africa?
“There are fewer than 2,000 museums on the continent, compared to more than 30,000 in Europe and the US,” says the man who also founded the African University College of Communications in Ghana.
“The museum is special because it is the only one that brings together all African heritage under one roof.”
The principal architect for the project is James Inedu-George, a Nigerian known for capturing the spirit of African cultures and infusing them into his designs.
The symbol chosen for the museum is a horn, a means of communication announcing the rebirth of Africa.
The project is funded by donations and is estimated to cost around $50 million (£40 million).
But key supporters, including President Akufo-Addo, believe it will be worth the bill.
“Not only will it benefit all the peoples of the world, but it will also instill in all of us a deep awareness and understanding of the goals and ideal of Pan-Africanism.”
In addition to the artifacts and research materials, the museum will also have a sculpture garden, a herb garden and space for festivals, concerts, film screenings and exhibitions from around the pan-African world.
The museum’s innovation and creativity center will be a space for young people to build on new ideas for the future after touring the facility.
The museum will reserve a two-hectare plot where it will recreate a selected number of African kingdoms, both ancient and modern.
It will showcase their history, their art, their culture and learn from their skills, craftsmanship and indigenous knowledge, which have supported Africans to this day.
This is where the large influx of African ‘migrants’ will find a home.
Mr. Yankah hopes his vision will restore our distorted heritage.
“Our legacy has been stolen and our trust has been dampened by crippling tales of our past and even present, so we ignore the wise sayings and indigenous knowledge of our own people and quote eloquently from sources alien to us in our daily lives.”
Indeed, as the late Nigerian literary giant Chinua Achebe noted, “Until the lions have their own historians, the history of the hunt will always glorify the hunter.”
Well, we Africans now have the pen, a brush and a large canvas – it’s time to tell our story.